A TV ad for Hattons of London, a coin specialist, seen on 4 October 2018 promoted their 2018 Armistice Remembrance Gold Gallantry Quarter Sovereign coin. The voice-over stated, “Call now and save £100 off the regular release price”. On-screen text which accompanied a visual of the coin stated “£95 (plus £4.99 p&p) £100 saving off our regular release price of £195”.
The complainant, who did not believe that the coin had ever been sold for £195, challenged whether the savings claims was misleading and could be substantiated.
Hattons of London Ltd t/a Hattons said that they promoted the product at £195 from 20 July 2018 until 6 September 2018. They said they had conducted some price testing and that for various reasons the price was officially increased on 3 September from £195 (plus postage and packing of £4.95) to £239.00 (inc p&p) so the actual saving made by customers was more than £100. The promotion began on 3 September.
Hattons said their total gross unit sales were 5,399 and of those, 299 sales were made at the full price of £195 or £239, which represented more than 5.5% of total sales. They said that while that number represented a relatively low percentage, it reflected that the vast majority of their sales were achieved through the TV ad in question, rather than from retail premises, but they believed that 299 sales at the full price represented a significant number. Hattons also provided a spreadsheet with figures of the sales of the product made at each price point between 25 July and 11 November 2018.
Hattons said that the product was offered at full price of either £195 or £239 for the entirety of their sales activity (25 July to 6 November 2018). During that time, customers who responded to promotional offers were eligible for a £100 or more reduction. The dates on the spreadsheet were dates when sales were recorded, but they did not indicate specific dates when the product was offered at different prices. Hattons said had they not referenced the price saving, consumers might have been led to believe they were being offered a different or sub-standard product.
Clearcast said the claim they had accepted was “£100 off the regular release price”, which they said was different to “the previous price” because the coin only came into existence at the end of July 2018 and the TV advertising started on 17 September. They said that in support of the claim, they received details of the offer together with the assurance that the coin was offered at the full price and the expectation was to sell it in reasonable numbers at the higher price. Clearcast also referred to the sales spreadsheet which they said detailed the sales of the coin across all channels, not just TV, and from launch to sell-out. They said that not all customers were entitled to the discounted price which was why sales at the full price continued to appear throughout the campaign. They believed that corroborated the fact that customers responding to the TV ad were obtaining a genuine discount on the normal price. Clearcast also said that the advertiser used a wide range of sales channels including Direct Response TV, press, direct mail, email, PR, Social Media, Pay per click advertising and direct telephone sales. They said that the discounted price was provided to all customers who responded to ads featuring the discount and that the 299 customers who bought the product at the higher price would typically be through sources such as word of mouth or some other unidentifiable source, or from activity before the discount began.
Clearcast said the coin was available for longer at the higher price from 25 July until 6 November 2018, compared with the duration of the promotional offer which ran from 17 September to 6 November 2018.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand the claim “£100 saving off our regular release price of £195” to mean that, when the coin was first launched, the standard price was £195 and that, while some sales may have been made at other prices, £195 represented the price at which the coin was usually sold prior to the promotion, and the price against which a genuine saving could be made.
We noted that the data provided in the spreadsheet showed that the first sale was made on 25 July 2018, at a price of £239. The next sale, for £195, was not made until 14 August and the next sales, two at £195 and one at £239, were on 23 August. The last sale at £195 was on 2 September, and in total only seven sales were ever made at £195. While the coin had been sold between 25 July 2018 and 3 September 2018 at the higher prices of £239.00 or £195, only 14 sales had taken place before the day on which the coin was first sold for £95 (3 September). After that period from 4 September until 6 November (when the product was sold out), the product was sold predominantly at £95.00 with the higher price of £239.00 appearing in the data only infrequently resulting in 5,100 sales at £95, 292 sales at £239 and seven sales at £195.
We noted that the coin could be bought through various sales channels, but that the majority of the sales were achieved through the TV ad. The number of sales on a single day reached double figures for the first time on 6 September. The daily volume of sales increased significantly on 10 September and was sustained until 17 September when the TV ad was first broadcast, at which point there was a further sustained increase in sales volume. The spreadsheet also showed the product was offered for sale at the higher prices for 40 days from 25 July to 3 September, compared with 64 days at the promotional price from 4 September to 6 November. We noted that Hattons said the product was available at full price for the entire duration of the sales period. However, according to the spreadsheet data the majority of sales were at the lower price of £95.00 from 6 September onwards.
We considered that the volume of sales before the price was reduced to £95 indicated that the higher prices were not prices at which the coin could have been expected to sell in reasonable numbers. The reduced price of £95 first appeared on 3 September when only 14 sales had been made at the higher prices and was by far the most common selling price by the time the TV ad first appeared on 17 September. The price of £195 – a price at which only seven sales were made – was not therefore the price at which the product was usually sold at the time the TV ad first appeared, or when the complainant saw it on 4 October. Indeed, 5,100 of the 5,399 consumers who ultimately bought the product did so at the price of £95.
For all of those reasons, we considered that consumers would not regard the claimed saving as genuine. We therefore concluded that the savings claim had been exaggerated and was likely to mislead.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.18 3.18 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product or service depicted in the advertisement. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Hattons of London Ltd to ensure their future savings claims did not mislead and to ensure they substantiated savings against the usual selling price of their products.